Is Goodness Without God Good Enough?

In a society ever-growing in its urge for secularization—both culturally as well as religiously—the question of atheism versus theism is a timely one. Particularly, the question being asked by many philosophers and theologians alike is: "What does God contribute the nature of moral decision making?" or, put alternatively, "Is moral action possible for atheists, or is morality something peculiar to theists alone?"

A recent book, Is Goodness Without God Good Enough?, takes hold of this question from a variety of angles. Beginning with a famous 2001 debate between philosophers William Lane Craig and Paul Kurtz (who argue the theistic and atheistic positions respectively), the authors of the book have compiled a host of essays, which seek to ultimately discern 1) just what is at the heart of asking the question, "Is goodness without God good enough?," as well as 2) what the proper response to such a question would look like.

Throughout the book, Paul Kurtz's position seems to run as follows: in the course of human history, atheist have proven time and again to have demonstrated great moral rectitude and uprightness, despite their non-belief in God. Therefore, it is generally visible that belief in God is not a necessary condition for the exercise of moral action. On the other hand, Craig argues this: that although belief in God is not necessary for moral rectitude, God's existence alone suffices in making moral decisions truly moral. In other words, he supposes that God's perfect nature is the only true source of a moral code that is both objectively recognizable, as well as universally applicable. The two thinkers go back and forth, debating one another on these points, and trying to discern whether or not God is really essential for moral living.

Here's a spoiler: in the end, there still remains a great bit of obscurity. Craig addresses the meaning of the question, while Kurtz continually runs the end-around on his opponent, refuses to deal with the challenges leveled against his own position.

Nevertheless, the contributions made by the book's various essays, which critique the actual Craig-Kurtz debate, are quite noteworthy. Although, I would say, there isn't a great deal of substantial 'progress' that occurs in terms of answering the actual question of the debate, there are nonetheless some insightful perceptions about just what it means to talk about morality as strictly non-religious versus morality as inherently religious. This, I think, is a good thing, since the typical arguments taken up by atheists and theists alike, in such a situation, are unlikely to change much unless there is some alteration of the terms of engagement. (For a reasonable approximation of this sort of usual deadlock in a 'real world' scenario, visit Austin Cline's atheism blog at

Although Is Goodness Without God Good Enough? doesn't settle for me much about the atheist-theist debate on the whole, it does make some notable observations which are helpful for anyone seeking to understand more fully the nature of the debate on morality, and how it relates (or does not relate) to religion. I would encourage those interested to read the book, which is a fairly easy read, and certainly serves as a helpful gateway into one of the most pressing problems of our era.